Grinding an axe head Canada BC
Image by Frantisek Falta from Pixabay

Grinding an axe head Canada BC

Scottish record and Archaeology
3 min read

Found in Scotland, these exquisite axeheads had been made over 6, 000 years ago, high in the Italian Alps. Today, because of a French-led task involving nationwide Museums Scotland – Projet Jade – their particular fascinating tale may be informed.

Jade axeheads reality lodge


Made-over 6, 000 years ago

Made from

Various kinds of Alpine rock – mostly jadeitite, omphacitite and eclogite

Made in

Extracted rock from Mont Viso, south-west of Turin and Mont Beigua above Genoa, Italy

Do you realize?

These hard-won pieces of the mountains could have been seen as having divine powers to guard and heal.

Green treasures through the miracle hills

Mont Viso, north Italy. Pierre Pétrequin © Projet Jade

These axeheads weren’t every day resources for felling woods and chopping timber – they certainly were sacred and precious ceremonial objects, made from unusual jadeitite (often called jade) alongside special rocks.

Why were they so special? Neolithic people could have associated hills with the world of the gods. These hard-won items of the mountains might have been thought to be having divine capabilities to guard and heal. Perhaps polishing all of them to a glassy sheen was believed to improve these powers. Their luminous green color might have symbolised immortality.

  • Axehead of jadeitite from Mont Beigua, said to have-been present a cairn at Monzievaird, Perth and Kinross. This was indeed deliberately burnt.
  • Axehead of saccharoidal jadeitite from Porco valley, Mont Viso, discovered near Stirling.
  • Axehead of retromorphosed micaceous jadeitite from either the Beigua and/or Viso massif, within or near Penicuik, Midlothian
  • Fragment of deliberately-broken axehead, found near Douglas Castle, South Lanarkshire. The straight line over the base is a result of removing a slice to help make a petrological slim part during the 1960s.
  • Axehead of jadeitite from Mont Viso, found blade downwards regarding the lender associated with the River Ericht, Rattray, Perth and Kinross.

Far-travelled objects: from Alps to Scotland

The makers among these axeheads climbed to heights of over 2, 000 metres when you look at the Italian Alps to draw out the uncommon and prized rock from Mont Viso, south-west of Turin, and Mont Beigua above Genoa. They took obstructs and roughed-out axeheads down seriously to their particular villages in order to complete all of them there, before exporting them. The axeheads travelled north-westwards through France, driving through numerous hands. Some were re-shaped and re-polished during their journey.

Location of the sources of jadeitite, omphacitite and eclogite on Mont Viso and Mont Beigua massifs, and circulation of axeheads over 135mm long manufactured from these stones. Map © Projet Jade

The people within Scotland had been brought over from northern France by immigrant farmers after 4000 BC. Most would have been at the very least a century old. They would have been treasured heirlooms, each along with its own tale.

These axeheads travelled over 1, 500 kilometres during their lengthy and complicated resides.

This axehead of jadeitite from Mont Viso was found around 1840, near Greenlaw, when you look at the Scottish Borders. Most Alpine axeheads found in Scotland tend to be of the unique thin triangular form

Identifying the foundation associated with rock

Several types of Alpine stone were used to help make axeheads – mainly jadeitite, omphacitite and eclogite. Stone Age folks understood what things to seek out: hard green or blackish rocks with razor-sharp sides. Jadeitite are available as huge, free-standing blocks.

Axehead of omphacitite from Bulè valley, Mont Viso, available at Newton Tillycairn, Aberdeenshire

These days various medical strategies are widely used to determine an axehead’s stone kind and pinpoint its origin. Until recently, the most common strategy involved cutting off a slice, grinding it thin and examining it under a particular microscope. Today, just non-destructive strategies are used. Spectroradiometry – an approach borrowed from area exploration – allows archaeologists to trace many axeheads returning to particular rock outcrops. By examining how the stone absorbs light of particular wavelengths you can easily identify its mineral composition.

Making use of a spectroradiometer to analyse an axehead. Photo: © Projet Jade

Making an Alpine axehead: no mean feat

Natural product ended up being extracted into the hills by collecting loose blocks, by detaching chunks with a rock hammer, or by setting fire beside a block to loosen long curving flakes. Roughing-out ended up being done by striking flakes off or by pecking with a hammer-stone.

Back the method continued by flaking, hammering, grinding and polishing. Some obstructs of jadeitite were sawn then flaked and ground. The glassy polish has been accomplished in many techniques, including milling with a paste made of ash from bulrush plants.

The difficult Alpine stones are hard to work and it took over 1, 000 hours in order to make a highly polished axehead.

Hammering a lengthy, curving thermal flake from a burnt block of jadeitite. Picture: Anne-Marie Pétrequin © Projet Jade